By Sushil Kutty
The AAP strategy is to make lots of noise and hope that it registers with the voters. It worked in Gujarat where it got 13 percent of the vote share to technically become a national party though in terms of impact it remains “regional” with the distinction of being in the company of the BJP and the Congress in ruling more than one state.
However, the AAP did not set the Sabarmati on fire. In Himachal Pradesh it could not climb any hill. If, even after this, AAP continues to make noise, then it is a strategy. But AAP cannot neglect tactics. Going forward, with general elections 2024 for reference, it should ask itself where it stands, and with whom it stands?
The AAP should decide, forthwith, whether it wants to take on the BJP alone, or if it would prefer to make an enemy of the Congress and the rest of Opposition, too? AAP cannot be relevant in national politics by fighting both the BJP, and the Congress.
The BJP will never become an ally of AAP. The Congress may and opposition unity is must to beat the BJP in 2024. Against the behemoth, it is united we succeed, divided we fail. The AAP David cannot defeat the BJP Goliath. After Gujarat, and post-Himachal Pradesh, AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal should not be under any illusion.
For deluded is half the battle lost. Standalone, the AAP is no match for the BJP. In Punjab, AAP got the advantage of a confused and disenchanted electorate. Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh had none of Punjab’s peculiarities. Voters of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat weren’t confused. And, unlike their cousins in Delhi, they weren’t sold on AAP’s freebies..
Low income voters voted overwhelmingly for AAP in the Delhi-MCD polls, upwards of 50 percent. The BJP has this identified now. AAP has a long way to go in terms of preparations till 2024, but very less time.
That said, Mainpuri is proof that the BJP can be beaten if the entire opposition stood as one and the strongest opposition party in each of the constituencies took on the BJP singlehandedly, but supported strategically by every other opposition party. Mainpuri can be repeated all over, in all the geographies. The minimum requirement: Opposition unity at all, and at any cost.
Arvind Kejriwal’s naked ambition has to be throttled. The naked ambitions of all wannabe PM-faces of the opposition parties should be throttled. The Delhi Chief Minister forgets that even the AAP’s election symbol ‘jhaadu’ is a shuffle of corn stalks tied together.
AAP should not forget that in 2014, 31 percent of the electorate fetched the BJP majority. In 2019, the percentage rose to 38. Both times, the fragmented 60 percent votes gave Narendra Modi and the BJP “majority”. Can AAP get more than 40 percent of the national vote share in 2024? That too against a voracious election-winning machine like the BJP?
Can the Congress, the oldest national party, conjure up more than 40 percent vote share on its own? Can the TMC, and the Samajwadi Party, or the CPM, for that matter? The answer is ‘no’. Assuming that AAP is not the BJP’s b-team, it cannot be relevant nationally unless it is part of the combined opposition.
AAP must sink its differences with the Congress. The AAP had the advantage of novelty, but the novelty wore off in states as diverse as Goa, UP, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Worse, forget nationally, the AAP on its own cannot beat the Left front/Congress in Kerala; it cannot best the BJP/Congress in Karnataka.
It will be a non-starter in Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian strongholds; against the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, and against the TRS/BRS in Telangana. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC will not tolerate AAP in West Bengal. Similarly, the northeastern states will not give AAP the time of the day. Tejaswi Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) won’t allow AAP to make inroads in their bastions.
The long story cut short is AAP is “national” only in Delhi, and Punjab. At least for now. It will take years for AAP to truly become a pan-India national party.
Right now, for 2024, the AAP is short of time; and short in resources. It has no such things as “committed cadres”. It is a force to reckon with in only Delhi. Punjab is not sure-shot till it wins Punjab’s Lok Sabha seats. Let’s not forget AAP does not have a single Lok Sabha seat and it hasn’t won any of Delhi’s Lok Sabha seats.
Winning Delhi MCD elections isn’t key to winning Delhi’s Lok Sabha seats just like winning assembly elections twice was not. Two, AAP cannot match BJP’s propaganda machinery, and its moneypower. Three, most states are out of AAP’s sphere of influence. Four, AAP cannot beat BJP in Hindutva. Five, the Muslim vote-bank is largely out of AAP’s reach. Muslims are not sure of AAP. Ditto the Hindutva vote-bank.
Looking at the big picture, AAP’s chances of becoming the primary opposition party in India are non-existent. There is no AAP wave. The BJP is the terminator, which never fails to remind, “I’ll be back!” Even anti-incumbency isn’t working. So much so, pro-incumbency is the new mantra. And when it comes to elections, the BJP throws everything it has into it. From back to back rallies to roadshows and leaders galore.
AAP had only Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann. Point is, AAP cannot and will not ally with the BJP. But it can and must ally with the Congress for the limited goal of ousting the BJP, which if given a third straight term will wipe the electoral slate clean. ‘Opposition Jodo Yatra’ is the key to beat BJP to the finish line 2024. (IPA Service)